Category Archives: Sharing Experience

8 years on my early-2008 Mac Pro

I purchased my early 2008 Mac Pro computer soon after its release in January 2008 and it is still my primary computer today.

At the time I bought the stripped down model but have since repeatedly upgraded it to what it is today. I would like a new Mac Pro for the speed it is supposed to bring.. but with all of the external storage I am still not convinced and I LOVE the expandability of the classic Mac Pro so have not retired it.

The nearly decked out early Mac Pro in 2008 had I bought it then would have cost me over $8000 if not upwards of $10,000, with just the technology that was available at the time.

Instead over eight years I have basically doubled my investment in the original $2244 system with $2210 (most of that backup storage) in upgrades but it has kept up with my needs, my budget, and provided the reliability and expandability I want out of system which I do not feel I would get out of making another ‘large desktop’ purchase like a Trash Can Mac Pro.

I definitely would not buy an iMac. A Mac Mini appealed to me as a possible option until they made the RAM non-upgradable and it lacks the horsepower and expandability in some areas. I did pick up a Mac Mini i7 which goes head-to-head on some benchmarks with it and uses significantly less power.. but at this point I plan to continue to use my tank of a Mac Pro indefinitely.. though there are no more upgrades I am aware of to perform.

Upgrades including shipping: (~$2210)

  • 2015 – Gigabit Ethernet Card $60
  • 2015 – Blu-Ray BDXL Reader/Writer $160
  • 2014 – The CPU upgrades of Intel Xeon X5482 3.2GHz Quad Core 12M 1600 cost with heat sink and tools $235.
  • 2011 – Two 2TB Western Digital Caviers ($99 each)
  • 2011 – 256gb SSD $380
  • 2011- The Graphics Card $169
  • 2011 – eSata External Ports $30
  • 2011 – USB 3.0 External Ports $40
  • 2009 – Six 1.5 TB Western Terabyte ($89.00 each) = $534
  • 2009 – Added an external 4 Drive DROBO – $400*

*I am retiring the Gen 1 DROBO likely soon.. as I have other NAS devices with much better performance and use it just for backup.

Todays Configuration December 2015:

  •  Model Identifier: MacPro3,1
  •  Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon (Took from 1 CPU to two CPU by adding a heat sink)
  •  Processor Speed: 3.2 GHz (Matched Intel Xeon X5482 3.2GHz Quad Core 12M 1600)
  •  Number of Processors: 2
  •  Total Number of Cores: 8
  •  L2 Cache (per Processor): 12 MB
  •  Memory: 24 GB (DDR2 FB-DIMM 800mhz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 896 MB
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Three USB 3.0 Ports
  • Two  2TB Raid 0 (WDC)
  • Two 1.5 TB Independent (WDC)
  • One 512gb SSD (Crucial) (off the esata connector on main board)
  • 16x Blu-Ray Read/Writer BDXL

Original Configuration January 2008:

MAC PRO CTO Z0EM $2,244.00 1 $2,244.00
With the following configuration:

  • Processor 065-7532 One 2.8GHZ Quad-Core Intel Xeo
  • Memory 065-7175 2GB (2x1GB)
  • Graphics Card 065-7182 ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB
  • Hard Drive Bay1 065-7189 320GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb
  • Hard Drive Bay2 065-7194 None
  • Hard Drive Bay3 065-7197 None
  • Hard Drive Bay4 065-7200 None
  • Optical Drive 065-7203 One 16x SuperDrive
  • Wireless Option 065-7206 AirPort Extreme Card (Wi-Fi)
  • Modem 065-7209 None
  • Fibre Chl Card 065-7211 None
  • RAID 065-7213 None
  • Apple Software App- iWorks ’08 065-7672 None
  • Apple Software App-Logic Exp 065-7675 None
  • Apple Software App-Fnl Cut Exp 065-7674 None
  • Apple Software App-Aperture 065-7673 None
  • Mac OS Language for AOS 065-7708 WIRELESS KEYBD/ OS X
  • Mac SVR OS Language 065-7539 None
  • Country Kit 065-7220 Country Kit
Also posted in Computing Tagged |

Lightroom 6.0.1 and Facial Recognition Woes

I purchased Lightroom 6 about 4 hours after it was released on April 21st and my computer had been indexing faces from that time almost none to about 4pm Monday May 3rd, so about 13 days later it finished. This was processing 228,000 images, guessing about half had faces in them.

One of the big things Lightroom 6 supposedly brought to the table over Lightroom 5 was performance improvements, but I have not yet seen any evidence of it, but more to the contrary. Though to be honest.. I have been working off my laptop for the last two weeks because my desktop LIGHTROOM (not the computer itself) was so locked up doing facial recognition it was otherwise unusable. So if there are performance improvements in other modules I haven’t particularly noticed too many of them yet.

Thanks to a previous post commenter (JBurroughs) for pointing out that you do not need to be in Facial Recognition mode for it to process images and it seems SIGNIFICANTLY faster when you are in Loupe mode and it indexing as it is not trying to constantly update stacks and order them as they are added.

Lightroom 6 within in the last couple of days distributed a minor update via Adobe update but the version still shows as 6.0.1 (vs. 6.0.0) and didn’t mention any performance improvements. So no help there.

Post Indexing Experiences

  • Post indexing after seeding and initial frustrations of my catalog of 228k RAW images I had about 137,000 faces to identify with the largest stack being about 80 deep and there was less than one screen of image stacks over 50.. so this is going to take me quite a while still to work that number down especially with the performance issues still occurring in the application.
  • In particularly facial recognition grid view is still ridiculously slow, simply selecting a row of images can take 5 minutes while you wait for Lightroom.. no CPU or memory spikes while it does it either.
  • When you go into people view, it still attempts to do “Finding Similar Faces”, even though indexing is completed and if you pause Facial Recognition. This causes significant pauses and delays in processing if you try to do anything before it is done with this “Finding Similar Faces” process…wait for it… it also creates a TON of noise generating 40,568 “alternative” suggestions not listed in the main view.

So my TIPS for proceeding..

  • I find the best way to tackle the now indexed photos is going back and doing directories of about a 1000 images or less, and even then sometimes has a bit of lag but mostly is barely notable, if I get over 2000 images I start to notice it even with large stacks.
  • I then , if it is all of a single or small number individual (such as from a portrait shoot) I select all images in the directory and then go and deselect any images not them or false positive facial recognitions (such as bushes) and ignore ALL suggestions if I know who they are. I then type their name and let auto-complete address the name if it is an indexed person and I basically override all suggestions. (So basically for the most part completely devaluing facial recognition and recopying the keywords I already had in place).
  • I then go to small groups and repeat the process for them just with more selecting bulk selects.
  • I then proceed to filter out the biggest bang for the buck crowd directories where I do not care. This includes people’s faces in airshows, street photography, weddings (eliminating all but the wedding party), concerts, etc. Going in and getting rid of facial recognition on these directories in bulk. This will HUGELY reduce your number of phases to identify.. what is not clear yet is if you can later go back and “re-process” the directory for facial recognition without having to also manually identify each one.
  • I then go to larger top level directories of about 1000-2000 images.
  • I take on everything else.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, every so often go back and check your named people to make sure the faces at least match and you do not have some bad seedings that delays in Lightroom didn’t accidentally result in people getting labeled incorrectly. Do this by clicking on the named people and then when you find someone who is not that person click on them and give them the proper name just like in the main view.

At the current rate I am estimating I will be retagging images for months, maybe they will have an update by the time I get done but not seeing how it will work into my regular workflow and maybe just be a background idle process activity.

Other observations:

  • My catalog went from about 3.3 gigs optimized to just over 4 gigs.. so about about a 20% increase in size by cataloging the faces within my catalog. (Note: I didn’t look at my catalog size before hand, but compared current vs. last backup so this number is not precise, just an estimate)
  • There have been many posts about people grumbling about it identifying faces in magazines or billboards in the background.. I honestly like that it can do that as it helps with identifying people in a crowd.. though it needs to be better. I find it only gets about 70%-90% of the people in a wedding formal photo’s face and misses the others, even the ones completely standing out (like the bride and groom).
  • I have noticed it tends to have high false positives on some women’s floral dresses, especially if there is a grid pattern and the flowers are within the grid pattern.
  • I REALLY wish I could disable facial recognition on a particular directory. A have several of directories of event and street photography where there are large crowds of people and it picks up dozens of faces to identify of random people I will never know (or probably care) what their name was. Yes I can reject selection and then delete facial recognition markers for those images, but that creates a lot more work for me.
  • I have noticed it commonly identifies double round edge numbers, especially “22”, as a face. I have seen at least 2 unique cases of this where 22 was on bleachers in one case and 22 was randomly in the background on something else.  After I saw it a couple times I took a screenshot for an example, in this particular example it came up with at least 4 different names for the front of a treadmill in a gym from an fitness shoot. I did go back just to be sure and checked the 4 names lists and NONE of them also had been accidentally trained to recognize “22” as that person too.


Also posted in How To

Lightroom 6 – Facial Recognition Performance Issues and some tips to work around it.

Earlier this week I was bait and switched by Adobe to upgrade my Lightroom 5.7 (per a notice in Lightroom 5).. and then it took me to Buy Lightroom 6 when is use the ‘download’ link.. I was more than happy to buy Lightroom 6 (as I am not sold yet on being locked out of my photos if I let me subscription lapse) and I immediately dove into their Facial recognition feature with the hopes it would help me clean-up some of my catalog for untagged images.

I encountered some issues described below as well as developed some useful knowledge to share that hopefully will reduce some of the frustration for others at the bottom of this post.

I watched the Lightroom 6 Facial Recognition introduction tutorial which leaves out a lot of the bulk editing and says basically let it loose on your whole catalog.. NOT recommended (see below) It got me started but also put me down a path of frustration.

So after about 30 minutes of watching Lightroom slow down and it becoming less and less usable while also tagging everyone as the same person which look no where a like. (see below)

I can ensure you each of these individuals are not “Courtney” when you let it loose on the entire catalog. Build a small reference library first.

So I started out with a couple small portrait galleries of 50-200 individuals each that identified a couple hundred total people to seed facial recognition so it didn’t suggest everyone is the first person I confirmed (which it will do otherwise). I have also optimized my catalog after having about 300 reference individuals.

Then I started it out on larger directories of 20000 images and this is where it really became annoying and almost unusable.

To note I am using a Dual Xeon CPU 3.2 ghz Mac Pro, Catalog on SSD, Images files on Mirrored Pair, Dedicated GPU (max I can install in my version of Mac Pro) and hardware acceleration enabled in Lightroom.

I have encountered the following serious performance issues and bugs with Facial Recognition.:

  • [PERFORMANCE] Lightroom 6 Facial Recognition goes to a ridiculous crawl after about 2000 “unnamed people” stacks to be confirmed (i.e. 2000-2300 in a couple hours, 800-1200 in the next 12 hours).
  • [PERFORMANCE] Lightroom 6 becomes largely unresponsive after having a fair number of images to be confirmed, even after pausing Address and Facial Recognition. So even selecting 4 rows of images can take 5 minutes with several long pauses.
  • [PERFORMANCE] Once I select and click confirm it takes up to 2 minutes to update the “to be confirmed” list again.
  • [PERFORMANCE/BUG] Usually I can perform a couple operations in between refreshes, other times Lightroom looses them and incorrectly chooses the wrong image (selection vs. what is being displayed).
  • [BUG!!!] Command-Click / Control-Click selection sometimes does not work for individual images.  This could be when trying to select a single image or after you have already selected many and you are trying to add an additional image. The BUG sometimes follows the stack for many refreshes, but sometimes also not. The confirm and reject buttons when done individually work and they can be part of a shift-select group.
  • [BUG!!!] When I click on an individual at the top of the page, pause facial recognition and address lookup it still continues to “Look for similar faces”  even though all I want to do is just confirm some individuals more quickly in bulk with the images already identified.. not continue to look for more as a work around for the painfully slow responsiveness of the module.

The odd part is that with all of the performance issues Lightroom will not use more than 20-30% of my two Xeon CPUs, barely touches my GPU (<10% CPU, 30% memory), my and no more than 35% of my memory. Computer Temps are also barely above startup temperatures and 15-25 degrees cooler than when I run other applications which will consume my entire CPU and memory if I let it. I have explored Lightroom’s settings but seen nothing further I can configure to speed it all up.  I have also attempted the operation on images on the SSD, my drobo (known to be slow), an independent fast disk I have, and a pair of raided disks and have the same issues.

I will also note that all of my other applications seem to continue to operate just fine.. the slowness seems to be contained to the Lightroom 6 application itself.

I have reported the bugs and issues to the Adobe forums.

Here are a few tips that I have figured out to ease the pain of using the new feature and once the issues have been resolve will still be useful in the future for using the Lightroom 6 facial recognition feature.

  • Only work in large groups selections when actually performing an action.
    • Select 10-50 image groups at once
    • Use the control select, not just the shift select.
  • Pause Address detection / lookup; unless you geocoded your images this is a waste of time and also can be done as a separate operation.
  • Pause the Address Verification and Face Detection when you need to do things

  • You can select multiple images at once for more than one person and accept or reject in bulk (as long as the same operation). This took some experimentation and risk to realize it behaved this way.

Example 1:  If I click accept on “Anya” (where the red arrow is) it will not assume everyone is “Anya” but the name suggested for the selected box.

Example 2: If I click reject on “Anya” it will return all selected images to a “?” status and Lightroom 6 or Lightroom will make an alternative suggestion on the next update. (As these are all Melissa C.)

Example 3: Being I know all images in all two rows are Melissa C. , I can select all images and type “Melissa C.” and no additional clicking is required. It will update all images to Melissa C.

  • Wait at least 10-20 seconds between actions to let Lightroom 6 catchup and perform any updates or I have had a few times Lightroom take my subsequent actions occur on a resorted and updated image selection which I did not intend.
  • If you know you have a lot of images of a single image in a Catalog, once ID go into that particular individual by clicking on them and get them out of the way by letting Lightroom focus on finding similar individuals. Once you do tis for a few high frequency individuals it will make a noticeable difference and also greatly decrease false positives for that individual in the future.
  • Don’t waste your time chasing Lightroom while it is cataloging trying to update unless one of two things are occurring.. (Simply, if it IDs them correctly.. leave them alone as it will group them together for confirmation eventually leading to less clicking… it took me a long time before I realized I just needed to wait and check in on occasion. )
    • #1 It is identifying the same individual in a large number of photos and does not have a suggestion.
    • #2 It is incorrectly classifying people and you think you can correct future suggestions on a high frequency individual.
  • Unless you use other programs to edit your images and need the XMP sidecar files to recognize Lightroom changes, you can speed up the process a little bit by disabling writing XMP data in the Catalog settings, even if temporarily. Note though if you do this any facial recognition data will not be written to the sidecar.

Uncheck “Automatically write changes into XMP”


Also posted in How To Tagged , |

December 2010 Vacation / Reno / Fallon / Tahoe – Part 6 of 6

December 26-28th ~400 miles Driven; ~5 miles walked


Fallon – Caves and Petroglyphs at Grimes Point / Top Gun
We went to Fallon, a small watering hole town on the edge of the no where, to visit Kat’s mother. The town had a Safeway, some Pony Express statues, some farms, and a few other random stores but otherwise I didn’t see anything other than Top Gun maintaining the towns existence.

Rather than sit around and visit we decided to have a walk and visit and drove out the caves and such a few miles out of Fallon at Grimes point. The trails themselves aren’t very long.. but it is interested to check out none the less with some neat structures and nice views. If you happen to go there on the right days of the month there is also guided tours. We were not there on one of the appointed Saturday’s to actually get the tour of “Hidden Cave“, a cave with a small probably 4×4 entrance blocked off by a large steel door except when Archeology or tours are occurring.

We did walk around and check out the other caves / nooks in the rock face. Only a few of the caves across provided complete shelter where one could have protection from the hot and wet elements. The ceilings were largely soot stained from campfires and there were supposedly some evidence of writing on the walls but we didn’t see it other than a little vandalism; though there was very little of that I am glad to say.  Another neat thing you can see when at the caves is that they used to be basically on the shores of an inland sea and around them are petrified coral and other features normally associated with the ocean.

Looking up through a hole in a caves ceiling.

Looking out for one of the larger caves. It was really quite pretty.

I am not much of an HDR person, but I flashed the foreground and then did a 3 shot HDR Image handheld from about the same spot as the shot above.

Grimes Point Petroglyphs.

I also had an IR camera on me and like Tombstones works really well on bringing out petroglyphs but think this one shows up fairly well in color and I wasn’t out to document them at the time. One of the amusing notes about while we were walking around in the low-60s degree weather is Kat’s mom was walking around in a parka that I would even have to question wearing unless I was standing around in sub-zero weather.. but not for walking around in. We of course were wearing summer clothes as the temperatures were great for us coming from Anchorage in December.

Despite the movie fame and the local school.. we didn’t notice a ‘ton’ of things named “Top Gun” this and “Top Gun” that. We didn’t see any jets flying while we are out hiking. I kind of find it amusing that the Navy trains there pilots over the desert.

Top Gun from Grimes Point: (Sorry I only had a 24-105 on a full frame on me at the time).

Lake Tahoe

On our final day of our trip we went and visited Kat’s brother in Lake Tahoe and drove around the lake. It is very pretty but quite touristy. I had been there once before in October and recall it being nice but there wasn’t snow on the ground. The weather and the amount of snow seemed to be about like Anchorage but the temperatures were very mild and of course Tahoe wasn’t frozen.

Kat went to High School in the area and her brother was the last of her family living there, but was living in her Grandma’s almost cabin like house in South Tahoe. He was talking about how this summer he was going to hike the circumference of Tahoe along a ridge line trail and was preparing for it.

I don’t remember what this place is called off the top of my head.. but is seemed to be very popular with several pull offs and even a year round boat tour through it from another point in the lake. The little island pictured even has a little stone house on it.

Just looking up at a peak from the same vantage point as the image above.



Also posted in General Information Tagged , , , , |

December 2010 Vacation / Disneyland – Part 4 of 6

December 23rd: Walked 15+ Miles; Drove 0

Disneyland / California Adventure

Disneyland was a primary destination on our trip, as beside visiting her mom the only other place on our entire trip she specifically wanted to go. So luckily the rain stopped for one day and the weather was very cooperative for us for our day at Disneyland.

We stayed at a small hotel only about a half mile away and so we walked over first thing in the morning not knowing how long or how much time we were going to spend in the park.

Disneyland is VERY small child oriented and I am going to guess that any teen or even tween could become bored easily between the lack of ‘thrill’ in the rides as well as the lines involved for such an unrewarding experience. As the rides are more theatrics than thrill.

This is the stroller parking lot.. just for one ride at Disneyload.. I think it was like Mr. Toads or the TeaCups.

I was overall really disappointed with the main “Disneyland” portion of the park. Yes I realize it is oriented towards kids.. but some of it was just beyond disappointing, mellow, and in the example below both lame and insulting.

Seriously a plastic indian & indian village with plastic deer?

By noon.. the place was absolutely packed..and I was anxious, annoyed, and bored stiff all at once.

There was also at least a 45 minute wait to even go on anything and after checking out just about every food option we could find in the park (think hotdogs, ice cream, and cheese pizza as 90% of your options) we decided we were going to walk back towards the hotel, grab some grub and a nap and return later in the afternoon. About 3pm when we returned we both decided Disneyland just wasn’t enough for to keep us entertained and it had ‘magic hours’ so we would return later that evening to check it out at night and give it another chance. So we upgraded our tickets to also go to California Adventure.

-California Adventure

California Adventure was immediately more entertaining and a little less packed with a lot less direct marketing of Disney for the most part. It was also a bit more ‘thrill’ oriented and more for adults and teens.

The current big theme of the ‘downtown’ shop area was Tron, complete with light techno, people dressed up in Tron outfits, and even Tron clad go-go dancers.  Though at the same time toned down a bit for the family.. the laser show was neat and mildly entertaining.. but then they brought out lit holluhoops trying to get people involved. But then had rules that you had to keep it below your shoulders and above your knees.. so those people like Kat who can really holluhoop and do tricks it was kind of disappointing. I got a few shots of her using the glowing hoop.. which makes me want to get one for a shoot some time.

The Hollywood Tower of Terror was pretty fun, but short in duration. I would highly suggest doing it at night over the day for added affect. The ride wait though is long and mis-leading with an introduction to the ride.. and then another long wait before the ride actually begins. We used Fastpass and still had a 30 minute wait.

Our favorite ride all day was the main roller coaster “California Scream’n”. It goes from a complete stop to what they claim is 60 mph in a few seconds, I rode it twice and had my phones gps running both times and the top speed recorded the entire ride was 35 mph. None the less it was a blast, but not as much as an overall thrill as some of those ridden at larger theme parks as it only has one loop and only a few big drops. The best part of the ride though is that Kat is afraid of coasters and wouldn’t even go on the Disneyland kiddy one ‘Thunder Mountain’ pictured above. But somehow I got her on this one, and a couple ladies in line helped with the re-assurance prior to getting on the ride. The ‘first’ time through she had her eyes closed the entire time and was heavy Lamaze breathing the entire time. It was the one time I broke down to get one of those blurry and quite cheesy photos they take of you on these rides. Her face was priceless.. but sorry I am not going to post that photo. As we got back on the second time.. I said something to the affect of ‘this time try to have your eyes open for most of it other than the loop/upside part’.. and her reply was “there is an upside down part?!?”. She then kept her eyes open for all but that part.. but did scream the entire time which was fun. She even said she enjoyed it and would do it again but the coaster was and most of California Adventure was shutting down for prep for the 8pm World of Color light show.

So we were able to get on one last ride the ferris wheel of sorts pictured above and below. We got on a edge static cart vs. a swinging gondola one. Many of the people we heard in the swinging track gondolas really sounded like they were not having very much fun.. including a set of teen girls we heard scream “Let us off!!”.. they then hit the ground running and just kept running.. which based on complete lack of localized restrooms there I assume where they were heading for off in the distance.

People in this swinging gondolas were not as happy as Minny Mouse appears above.

Another advantage of being in a static gondola is being able to take photos.

Once we got off the gondola, we though seeing the World of Color show.. but then got Disney tweebs harassing us saying we couldn’t take position along the spot we had setup and were standing as they were roping it off for the World of Color show. We communicated that is why were were standing there and they then asked for our FastPass ticket for the next show? Because the thought hadn’t occurred to us (as it is a ridiculous thought) we weren’t allowed to stand there anymore and had to get on the other side of the rope. This disgusted us both.. so we decided we were done with California Adventure and left the park. We then went over to the mall behind Disney and hit us the Cheesecake Factory which Kat hadn’t been to before for some light appetizers.  After which we returned back to Disneyland to check out the lights displays and fireworks. Apparently we had our timing off for the Fireworks as we never saw them from about 9:30-11:30 at night. It was pretty crowded and so we just walked around and grabbed some photos.

The castle and other parts of the park were quite neat lit up with Xmas lights.. though it makes me wonder what it looks like when it wasn’t Xmas.. does it look as neat? The shops area and the Xmas tree were looked nice but I didn’t have a good vantage point to setup and get a good shot with all of the motion around me but this one didn’t turn out too bad. Another note is that on the way out of the park at Midnight is many Disney employees were around holding iPads attempting to ask people about their day at the park not so successfully. We would have been happy to answer their questions.. but we must not have fit their demographic of interest as one came right up to us and offered to take out photo with my camera.. but didn’t ask us to complete their survey.

This day ended up being one of the nicest weather wise of our entire vacation. We got to go and spend time at Disneyland and California under good weather; which is what my wife wanted and thus it makes me happy and declaring it a good day.

Would I go back to Disneyland.. No, not unless I had kids between 4-10.

Would I go back to California Adventure.. Yes.. but only if otherwise in the area.

Also posted in General Information Tagged , |

December 2010 Vacation / Las Vegas – Part 3 of 5

December 21st-December 22nd: ~262 miles driven; 15-20 miles walked.

Walking the Strip

The strip in the fog and light rain was relatively photogenic and provided for some neat opportunities.

The Luxor

Planet Hollywood

New York, New York

The Cosmopolitan, The Jockey Club, & the Bellagio on the edge of the frame.

The Bellagio’s water shows played about ever 15 minutes. but were only about 3-4 long at most.

A lot of opportunities for extended exposures.

Hey.. it is Santa on ‘the Strip’ in the rain.

Where not to buy tickets.

We unfortunately learned like most not so frequent Vegas visitors probably also learned, the discount ticket places on the strip aren’t much of a savings and their posted prices on the screens don’t reflect the prices for tickets actually available for the immediate shows.. and with the ‘convenience’ fee the tickets actually can end up being more expensive than actually buying them at the respective box office. The one thing I will give them though is that you are able to get tickets for everything you want to see in a single place… though just about anyplace at any hotel provides the same opportunity.

Bodies Exhibit

The ‘Bodies’ exhibit, appropriately at the hotel shaped like a pyramid was a highlight of the time in Vegas. Photography wasn’t allowed inside of the exhibit, but it was pretty cool to see the human body in some many separate pieces and how they removed outer layers to better display the interior parts. in their original position. My only complaint about it was that it was almost entirely male specimens and only had a room dedicated to the women and another small (but optional) to the developing fetus / babies. I would have liked to see more on the actual reproductive systems, a display of body fat between man and women, and more examples of disease on the body. I was also surprised that there wasn’t any ‘smell’ and it was room temperature in the exhibit as I believe most of the exhibits were actually ‘plasticized’ or ‘silicazed’ .. and probably more so than flesh though some of the exhibits are starting to degrade.

Another of the Luxor..

Peep Show ; starring Holly Madison.

The other show we saw was “Peep Show” at the Planet Hollywood.

Prior to the show we ate at Planet Dailies.. the food and service were both aweful. I only mention it as it may be convenient.. but I would suggest just avoiding it.

“Peep Show” was a series of slightly naughty versions of common fairy tales. It was both entertaining and funny at times.

Kat doesn’t have much tolerance for nudity.. and the show itself had ‘regular’ topless nudity.. but honestly except for a few occassions it really wasn’t adding anything to the show and seemed more like a ‘hey we hadn’t shown any boobs in a few minutes so we should show some for 30 seconds’. Other live shows I’ve seen with nudity in them it at least added something or was timed and integrated a bit better into the show.

The headliner ‘Holly Madison’ I didn’t think had much of a role in the show other than mostly standing around and ‘looking pretty’ and at a few times showing her boobs. There were a lot of other really talented actresses in actresses though in the show. The one male in the show was extremely talented and impressive.

Was it worth it.. absolutely.. would I see it again.. probably.. but there is a long list of other shows I’d want to see first.

Attempt to go to Valley of Fire; Rain & Flooding

The original plan for the departure out of Vegas on the way to Anaheim and stop by either Valley of Fire or a couple other photographic places along the way.. but when we headed out there was flood warnings in the Vegas area, some lanes/roads in Vegas itself were closed and more rain was supposedly on the way so we headed straight for Anaheim. On the way there we experienced the insane chaos of Xmas shopping at a large mall in Ontario California and stopped for some awesome Greek food in a small town near the CA/NV border that had just about every type of Greek food I had heard of and then some; that was coincidentally seemed to be all staffed with Latinos. Once we checked into our hotel we took a nap and then went and saw Black Swan; an excellent but suspenseful movie.

Also posted in General Information Tagged |

December 2010 Vacation / San Diego – Part 2 of 5

December 20th = 336 Miles Driven; ~6 miles walked

San Diego Zoo

When we arrived at the Tiger area we thought tourists were throwing the tiger hotdogs or something.. then under the poncho we noticed it was actually a zoo keeper. The tiger seemed very used to the routine and acted like a dog begging for treats at the dinner table but was still very cool. The roar the tiger made was amazing and unique and nothing like what I thought it might sound like in real life.

The San Diego Zoo is famous for its Pandas and we happened to get to there right as they were feeding them. It was pretty amazing to see them take a large piece of bamboo and shred it into splinters into just minutes. Apparently they have bamboo vomit balls a couple times a years similar to a hair ball that is made up of all of the fine pieces of bamboo their bodies couldn’t process.

We wanted to ride the tram over the zoo… but due to the wind, fog,  and rain they closed it.

The Hippos were HUGE.. and we didn’t see them out of the water but they leaned up against the glass. Kat made several Hungry Hungry Hippo comments.

The warning signs around the zoo were pretty amusing.. lots of things bite.. a few thing charge.. and even a few things spray.

I had no idea lions sprayed…. 7-10 feet even…

California 2010 December Storms

About one or two in the afternoon the rain and wind were picking up and so we decided we had enough of the rain and decided to go to the one place where we hoped it wasn’t raining. The desert of Vegas… the complete opposite direction of where we planned to go and where we had just come from.

Unfortunately it took us about 9 hours to get there at times moving 30 mph or coming to a complete stop.

In an attempt to pass the time, we started exploring the XM radio.. and discovered XM 248. It was both entertaining and just stupid. When we first found out “Whoretalk” or something like that was on which was entertaining and a bit informative.. but every subsequent turn to the station was the ‘jerkbox’. Which is by far is the dumbest radio program I’ve ever had the displeasure of listening too..

End of Day Summary

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December 2010 Vacation / Joshua Tree NP – Part 1 of 5

A couple weeks ago my wife and I started a vacation in southern California sun with the hopes of escaping the -7 to 5 degree Fahrenheit that had been at our house in Anchorage for the last week; as well me meeting her family for the first time at the tail end of the trip up in Reno/Tahoe area. The plan was pretty simple; fly into Palm Springs, go to Joshua Tree, then San Diego, then Disneyland, and then work our way up the Pacific Coast Highway and 10 day later end up in the Reno/Tahoe area; with approximately 1150 miles to drive over 10 days..

The plan:

The Original Plan

Just prior to departure we looked at the weather forecast for the next 10 days.. and unfortunately it was almost all rain. We decided though we would make the most of it and go with the flow. I was still hoping to get a chance though to capture some good photos during our journey, with the important caviat of that my wife doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for me taking advantage of photo opportunities most of the time.

So after flying into the overcast skies of Palm Springs we drove to high desert of the Joshua Tree area that first afternoon and arrived at the north end of the park just at sunset.

Joshua Tree about Sunset

The next morning we started out from Twentynine Palms, CA (Random Fact: It is also where the Marines train for Afghanistan due to similar terrain) with the goal of general exploration of the National Park prior to the wind an rain kicked up. We took a couple short hikes off the road on the north end of the park.. in the higher elevations the sky was partly cloudy but windy and you could see the clouds moving across the valley below.

When we descended into the valley at times the fog limited visibility but still gave a nice look and feel to things and though it isn’t visible in this shot below at times on the Barker Dam trail visibility got down to a 20 yards in the fog and was a pretty neat feeling as it was almost dead silent. One thing to note about the Barker Dam trail is that the damn lack and the stream pictured in the brochures or web is almost completely dried up in December so isn’t as picturesque. There are also Petroglyphs on the trail, but they have been vandalized and painted over; most likely in someones attempt to make them more visible.

We then drove through Joshua Tree North to South from the Mojave of Colorado desert transition. The main difference seems to be the height of the vegetation and the Mojave was rockier. There were no Joshua trees in the Colorado desert that we saw.  Right at the transition point there is a neat batch of cactus at the Chollo Cactus garden that is worth checking out if driving through. It is only a couple minute loop trail walk.

An IR pano shot from a couple miles down the road from the Chollo Cactus Garden.

Our last stop in Joshua Tree National Park was Cottonwood Springs Oasis; which was pretty cool with large Palms coming out of the desert and a nice casual out and back trail that you get to see a variety of colors and desert plant life on. Our entire time in Joshua Tree we didn’t see any animals, including no snakes, but the signs all over the place do suggest there are quite a number of different types in the park.

By the time we got out of south end of the park though the park the dark clouds of the California storms were over the park. So with a couple hours of daylight we decided to head towards the Sultan Sea as I had read about the oddities around the man made sea and hoped to maybe get a glimpse of them.

We reached the north end of the Salton Sea by driving through the Mecca California area which seemed to be a mesh of tropical agriculture and desert.

We stopped at the first state park we came across, at which there was a visitors center and a beach. The beach was basically abandoned other than some RV’rs in the parking lot, but it was sunny at the time, but could see the rain storms coming over the mountains.

From the visitors center we found out the Salton Sea claimed the old 1950s resorts some time ago and when the sea gets low sometimes pop out of the water, but generally the salt and humidty has destroyed them. So opportunities to photograph salt encrusted travel trailers and buildings there supposedly no longer exist; or they didn’t want to tell us where they were. Check out Google Images and Flickr for examples of what I was looking for.

At the south end of the Salton Sea, near Niland, CA you can drive past the power plant and find Slab City. A small informal town on the site of  an old military base where people have setup on the old cement slabs of quanset huts. The town itself is a mixture of quite allaborate and long standing semi-permanent setups, people in their old sedans or vans living in them, and people in modern RV or 5th wheel trailers that have setup shop.

Most of the place is up on a gravely plateau that reminds me of a gravel pit.  The ‘city’ has no power, sewer, or other services; as well what looks like no forms of employment in the area; including Niland itself.  Though a good number of the ‘homes’ in some fashion or another having a directTV dish. In come cases it was even mounted to a 50 gallon drum.

You are officially in Slab City once you pass the old guard station, and between the entrance and the most famous landmark of Slab City you pass a series of signs / graffiti and other statements which probably help maintain the order of the town. Such as for example “X is a thief” , “Y is a Child Molester”, “Z is a doesn’t repay loans”.

The most famous landmark of Slab City is “Salvation Mountain”, a single mans dedication to his faith and possibly his insanity. The mountain looks like it has been artificially been built up over time using mud and straw to even contain rooms. There is also several broken down cars around it that have also been painted. The public is welcome, donations appreciated, and encouraged.. even if it is just some paint. The ‘mountain’ seems to mostly be painted in household interior and exterior paint.. which can’t be good for the environment.

We arrived Slab City right before dusk so we only spent a very brief amount of time there as our goal for the evening was San Diego. The drive in the dark and over the mountains being in strong cross winds and rain as we basically drove along the border of Mexico.

Day 1/2:

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